Ah, Escape From New York (1981). I could write pages and pages about this vexing -and much beloved- film. The visual style of the film was supposedly inspired by the then recently released original Mad Max (1979). Kurt Russell, who would play the wonderfully cranky Snake Plisskin in the film, was supposedly the one to bring attention to that Aussie film to director John Carpenter.
Ah, but I mentioned the film was vexing. It is. I feel the film starts with a HUGE bang. I love the wonderfully wonky plot/premise: That the then future New York is closed off and converted into a prison. I love the idea of the President of the United States -played with a British accent by Donald Pleasance!- winds trapped in that hellzone. I love, love, love the first meeting between Plisskin and Hauk (a wonderful Lee Van Cleef) and I love the entry into New York and the bizarre citizens he encounters.
But if I’m honest with you, I’ll tell you to me the film loses steam in its second half, though it presented a hell of an ending, complete with Plisskin’s second and last meeting with Hauk. But the climax leading to that ending…? Eh… not so much. It feels, to me, like the film’s very meager budget weighted what should have been a far more suspenseful showdown between Plisskin and The Duke.
Even with that hiccup, there is just so much to LOVE about the film, some of which I mentioned above. Ultimately, I can’t help but admire the film and feel it is easily one of my favorite John Carpenter directed works (did I mention the soundtrack? It may well by John Carpenter’s best).
So I love the concept of this future. I love Plisskin. I love Hauk. I love all those other ancillary characters, good and bad and in-between, and, ultimately, I can’t help but love the film. Even after all these years, I’ll pop it on my television and give it a look see and think to myself…
“Plisskin? I though you were dead.”
And I’ll keep watching as he proves everyone wrong.